If you have ever lived in Lagos, you don’t need a crash course to know that real estate agents, landlords and omo-oniles defraud people of their hard-earned money every other day. With the demand for accommodation rising far more than supply, it’s no wonder that some people can be easy targets since they are in desperate need of the properties at the time.
Sometimes, real estate agents also perpetuate this kind of scam by renting out an apartment that is currently occupied to unsuspecting tenement seekers. Another scam agents perpetuate, is to rent houses that are for sale to people. Unsuspecting are then swindled of their hard earned money. Sometimes, it may not even be the agents, perpetuating the fraud, it may be the landlord, his son, or even a ‘sharp guy’ who stays around.
Real estate agents often misrepresent their experience and credentials on their websites and/or blogs. Some spend inordinate amounts of time posting online to obtain maximum search engine exposure. Others pay for commercial rights and buy ads to rank above search results in Google and Yahoo.
1. Avoid Overconfidence: Arguably one of the smartest precautions you can take is to avoid fooling yourself into believing that it couldn’t happen to you. You may be street-wise and all that, but the truth is that anybody can be scammed. Many of these guys have fine-tuned their ‘scamming skills’ such that before you can begin to detect
what is happening, money may have exchanged hands. So do you due diligence. Ask those that stay around if they know the agent. Find out who the landlord is. Dig, dig and dig some more. Don’t just come and pay, except the agency handling it is a well- known high-integrity corporate entity.
2. Don’t rush: I know how it feels. I really do. You have been looking for an apartment perhaps for months, and suddenly, you come across this really interesting one—the environment is cool, the space is cool, the price is cool and then someone somewhere is asking you to waste some time trying to find out who the landlord really is and who
the sister of the landlord’s daughter is. It happens, but if by any chance you don’t want to lose all that money, you may want to.
3. Understand the details: Be sure to look at the agreement details. If a lawyer is involved find out who he is. Be sure. Be sure. Be sure. ‘Nuf said
4. Yet-to-be completed apartments: it is not impossible to come across yet-to-be completed apartments in you search where the landlord asks you to pay that the place will be ready in so so time. Ejor, get it in writing biko. State clearly when it will be ready, and to what extent. You don’t want to start going to police station with landlord
when after six months of paying the place is not yet ready.
5. Be sure it really is unoccupied: If you are renting a place, be really really sure that no one is putting up there and that no one has rented it. You can find out from other tenants. Some agents can rent a space to two or more people and then disappear.